When you attend and participate in industry associations, attend business conferences, become a member of an industry peer group or reach out and befriend other landscape company owners, you can’t help but get a lot of great new ideas for improving your company. Beyond that, you gain new positive life experiences. It’s fun.
Many of us come away from these events with pages of notes and great intentions of putting some of these new ideas in action. Why would any owner attempt to build their company entirely on their own when other owners are so willing to share what has worked and what has not worked for them?
Too often, the reality is that because we get so busy (or, in some cases, we perceive we get too busy), we never get around to implementing any of them. Even a single one of them could turn out to improve our operations. It might be that we view these many suggestions and wilt at the prospect of trying so many new things. We don’t know where to start.
Rather than trying to remake our companies, in many cases if we implement even a single new procedure to better ourselves, improve the performance of our companies or elevate the quality of services to our clients, the efforts we spend at one of these sessions is time and money well-spent.
In sorting through piles of notes I had gathered at conferences over the years, I came across information shared by Bob Smart, founder and owner of Smart Scapes, Olmsted Falls, Ohio, with about 100 fellow landscape professionals at a CLIP conference in Frederick, Maryland, more than a few years ago. Smart has been a landscape professional for more than 30 years. His company offers a full range of landscape and snow management services to residential and commercial clients in the Cleveland regional market.
The suggestions that Smart shared so many years ago are as a timely and valuable today as they were then. You will find at least one idea (hopefully more) among the 15 listed that you can use to improve your company. Start by focusing on improving just one of these practices within your company, and when you have improved it to your satisfaction, do another.
1. Manage hours.
2. Manage travel time.
3. Build route density.
4. Embrace discipline selling. Learn to say, “No.”
5. Consider the idea of crews meeting at the job site.
6. Use satellite yards.
7. Practice preventive maintenance on your equipment.
8. Assign equipment to operators and make them responsible for using it appropriately and caring for it.
9. Eliminate load and unload time by using enclosed trailers. Load equipment and materials and have it ready for the next day’s tasks after each day’s work rather than in the morning.
10. Prepare route sheets the night before.
11. Enforce strict tardiness policies.
12. Monitor how long it takes to get out in the morning. If your crews have prepared their service vehicles and trailers properly the day before, there should not be a problem getting out and getting to job sites.
13. Make sure work orders are correct.
14. Split mowing service from horticulture services.
15. Mowing crews should only mow. You want to get mowers mowing and decrease overtime.
Remember, implementing even one good new procedure to better the delivery of services to your clients is a whole lot better than just a lot of good ideas, none of which you ever put into motion.